Tagged: Management

Food for Further Thoughts and Analysis


I have almost completely forgotten my Electronics & Communication Engineering.

I have forgotten all the equations that were necessary to understand how the theory of electro-magnetism works in practice, and how do electrons and neutrons struggle within an atom. Complex equations, stochastic processes, integration and differentiation, Fourier Transforms, linear differential equations, and what not?

I have not applied a single one of those equations in my engineering/business life, even in companies which depend on some of these theories to make and sell their stuff to customers. Of course, when you look at a boiler, a turbine, a rocket, a power generation plant, a refinery, or any other engineering driven plant or business, there is some recognition in my mind that I “used” to know something about all these at some earlier point in my life.

Did any of these matter to me in my life? The real answer is a clear NO.

Let me now come to my coveted MBA. I enjoyed working through my MBA Program, no doubt. I liked the intense discussions which went on in the class on various topics of importance to corporate life.

Did I enjoy my MBA? Ofcourse, it is a YES.

Did I get to use my MBA learning in my corporate life? Not really. May be a bit of Marketing, a bit of Finance, but I would say that I would have picked it up anyway during the course of my business life.

All these education focus, is it really necessary?

May not be required for the future of our children. Things are changing so rapidly as we navigate an already very complex life, and the skills that we learnt are no longer in use or needed in business life. Did we really keep up with what is transforming the world as at this moment? The answer is also a NO, as we have a wrong and incorrect belief system (in most of us) that persuades us all to take a rather casual approach to the emerging challenges, and that is rooted on our seniority and experiences over several decades.

We continue to operate on generalities and general knowledge which have seen us through till now in our lives.

But, these tools may not be adequate or even recognized by our employers any more.

Our education, experience, expertise, and insight may no longer be required in the new completely digital and Artificial Intelligence-driven life that is fast becoming a reality. Most of us can be replaced by machine learning and AI systems.

We are all lucky we got through most of our corporate lives unscathed (apart from the usual restructuring) till now.

Now, the challenge is not from within ourselves or our corporations. The challenge is from outside, and it may not even be related to your current business.

Think about it for a moment.

We are “used” cars. In a new world, we may easily be replaced by newer models, and faster cars. Our education is now totally irrelevant. I am no longer interacting with my elite MBA institution or its representatives in Singapore.

I am trying to meet folks with “new” and “radical” ideas to transform our business going forward. Most of the people we meet in our corporate life deserve no more than a “B” rating. Few people are a “B+”, and very few are a “A”.

As we course through our life, we see that the “B+” and “A” folks are much younger, sharper, incisive, intellectual, and operate entirely on data, not on qualitative stuff and not on perceptions. Relationships are no longer sacrosanct. The “B”s and “C”s are generally people whose profiles are similar to ours. Of course, there are exceptions.

So, in a nutshell, we need to mingle not just amongst ourselves or with our colleagues in our office or in other offices, but with young people who don’t give a damn about age, seniority, experience or old expertise. We need fresh thinking, and they will provide it all the time. Further, they will take risks which we cannot. So, they will go on to create new value, while we ruminate on “how great it was during our time”.

So, I took some actions –

  1. Subscribe to few digital courses at MIT Online Courses
  2. Visit Block 71 in Singapore and meet with young startup founders
  3. Invest in the stocks of few new companies that you believe in – can be in Technology, Bio-tech, or whatever you are interested in – the good outcome is you understand what is happening
  4. See CNBC every night – they talk about the markets and the new companies ringing the bell on listing
  5. Change your mind, your thinking, your interactions, your friends/acquaintances
  6. Do a business plan for a new company that you would like to start – I did this and it was not just informative, it was completely transformative. I even set up a website and validated the business plan
  7. List out options on what you would like to do after quitting your current corporate life – this will be tough if you are so used to the routine for a long time
  8. Offer your services as an unpaid mentor either to startup individuals or to startups themselves – they may or may not accept, but it is worth trying
  9. Read up on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, how these technologies which have been there for a long time have now taken on new avatars in combination with Big Data Analytics and Cloud technologies and platforms

I am dropping point #10, not all lists have to have ten points!

Don’t you think the above is interesting? May not work for everyone, or you might have your own approach depending on your area of specialization or the industry you are from.

I am already excited and feeling younger in mood, spirit and attitude. I am trying to drop all my old baggage that I have learnt or am carrying with me. It is time to completely “unlearn” everything we know.

The world is, and will, no longer be the same one that we had known all these years.

Time to learn new things and get going.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd October 2017

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The Founder Revolt and its Implications


We saw a surprising development in the Indian IT industry earlier this week when the CEO of Infosys, Mr Vishal Sikka, resigned protesting against personal attacks by founders of the company which have caused serious distraction in the performance of his duties as the CEO of the famous IT company. The Board of Infosys was fully supportive of the CEO during the onslaught mounted by the founders, led by Mr Narayana Murthy, the ex Chairman and CEO, and one of the co-founders.

Mr Sikka’s resignation sent the Infosys stock down by over 10%, wiping out almost USD 5B in its market capitalization. The market had a strong belief in the value that Mr Sikka brought to his job, and his strategy of moving Infosys’ business from traditional IT outsourcing to cloud, big data, social media driven business, transforming Infosys to take on the new digital challenges offered by the market.

While there are many commentaries (mostly supportive of Mr Sikka and the Board), it is important to learn a few things from this episode. Once the founders have handed over the CEO job to a professional, and have received assurances from the Board of Directors that the essential ethos and values of the company will be maintained and strengthened further, they should stay completely away from the running of the business. If there are issues with the corporate governance aspects of the business, there are ways of approaching and handling the same with the Board, instead of washing the dirty linen in public media glare.

Of course, it is to the credit of the founders who have built up a strong foundation for Infosys over three decades of pioneering work, that such public damage did not cause harm to the company or its business or its stock price (in a major way). Things were going on normally, despite all the attacks.

But Mr Sikka now says that the attacks by Mr Murthy turned very personal over the past couple of weeks. And, the distraction to the business was too much, leading him to make a drastic decision.

His resignation is a loss to Infosys as well as to the Indian IT industry. He was setting new benchmarks in strategic business transformation at Infosys, and was a thorough professional who made decisions without undue influence (from what can be gathered). He had the ears of the Board and the stock market.

Mr Murthy is an iconic figure in the industry and is a well-recognized name globally as well. There must be something which has disturbed him and his co-founders in a big way. But then, the way the attacks have been mounted on Infosys is not an acceptable form of protest. Seasoned businessmen and leaders do it in a different manner, without public disaffection and published letters via the media.

I disagree with Mr Murthy’s tactics, and won’t be surprised if the damage to Infosys is long-lasting. It would be very difficult to find a CEO of the calibre of Mr Sikka who would be willing to take up the CEO job now.

When I entered the IT industry in 1987, I knew only of Mr FC Kohli of TCS and Mr Azim Premji of WIPRO. I also knew about Mr Shiv Nadar of HCL. Infosys was not known at that time. But, in the Nineties Infosys built up its business nicely, garnering a serious reputation for integrity and values (similar to WIPRO). For the past nearly two decades, the stock market has always looked at Infosys as a trend-setter with conformance to global principles of accounting and transparency.

That legacy is under threat now. Hopefully, the Board will be able to make the right choice of the CEO. If it is an internal candidate from the old times, the market will assume that the founders are taking back control. And, if it is an external candidate bold enough to accept the challenge of dealing with the founders, then it has got to be a person of huge stature who cannot be trifled with.

Let us see how this plays out.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th August 2017

University Town Experience


The last couple of days I have been walking around Evanston town which is some 20 KMs from the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The famous Northwestern University is located in Evanston, and one of my family members graduated from the University just yesterday. It gave me an opportunity to spend some serious time around town, see the university, and talk to a number of strangers who were visiting for the graduation commencement ceremony of their wards.

Evanston (which I was visiting for the second time) is a pleasant small and tranquil town, the serenity of which is only broken by student crowds which dominates the Evanston scene at every corner. I would, however, hasten to add that the crowds were subtly tuned with no outward interference to the normal affairs of the society in general. I guess this is mostly due to the exclusive nature of the university, which is private and rather quiet on its own, though it has several world-class departments and famous faculty. Its Kellogg business school is world renowned, and I was thoroughly impressed with its LEED 5 certified state-of-the-art new facility on the edge of Lake Michigan. Apparently, this new building which was inaugurated formally only 3 months ago seems to have drawn attention from potential MBA candidates! Almost every other building on the NW campus seems to portray an old-world charm, I was sure many buildings are in fact more than 100 years old. The way modernity merges with that old-world campus can only be discerned when one walks around the campus and witnesses the intermingling of technology in an unobtrusive manner.

The commencement ceremony was held at the Ryan Field football stadium on the campus in a professional, well-organized manner. It was a 2.5 hour function, and graduated 996 graduates of management from the Kellogg school – that was a huge crowd of students, and it was heartening to see the truly global nature of the school with students from many, many countries receiving their degrees. It clearly demonstrated that the U.S. still remains as the education and intellectual capital of the world, and still attracts the best and the brightest from around the world. Hopefully, this trend will continue to the mutual benefit of the global student community and the universities, and continues to produce huge benefit for the American economy. I am sure President Trump has already realized this fact, and that can only be good for the U.S.

Evanston has several interesting restaurants. I tried out the Tapas Barcelona Spanish restaurant, which was pretty good. All portions were a bit small but the paella portion was of good size. The Chianti wine selection was good, though they had mostly Spanish wines. I am in the process of checking out couple of other restaurants.

Lake Michigan is beautiful, and today I took many pictures of it from the first floor of the new Kellogg building as well as from the lake’s shore. It is almost like a sea with waterline disappearing over the horizon, huge and calm, with its enormity only broken by the occasional speed boats and water scooters. It gives a sense of calm to the visitors and the walkers along its long coast line.

One of the things that I like generally in the U.S. is walking into an enormous Wal-Mart or supermarket like Trader’s Joe or Whole Foods, and start shopping for things that I love to eat – like fruits and nuts for example, and pick up excellent wines on the cheap (compared to Singapore). Walking along the long aisles, and reading the labels could take up well over an hour, before I end up collecting the stuff that I would like to buy. It gives pleasure that I could buy a lot more for the same amount of money!

I noticed that the roads were broken in many parts of Evanston, and apparently this is the case in most towns. Infrastructure needs to be fixed and it is no wonder that the President is pushing for a spend of USD 1 Trillion, America needs it as most of its infrastructure is at least 5 to 6 decades old. Even the airports are dated, with modern facilities lacking in many of them.

All in all, I had a great time in Evanston and Northwestern University. I liked what I saw, and came to know a lot more than I did. That’s good news!

Enjoy your weekend folks!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th June 2017

Some Useful Sales Books


Recently I had the opportunity to read (and browse thro’ in some of them) some good sales-related books. Many of these are already famous, but the key thing is that all these books came from the same source and so had a purpose behind ensuring that I go through these books !

I thought I should share the names of these books to interested readers of my blog, as these might be helpful to understand the complexity of B2B Sales and have fruitful sales negotiations. The first two books are long time classics in the area of selling and may not be new to most readers. The others are relatively new.

Here’s the list:

1. THE NEW STRATEGIC SELLING – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
2. THE NEW CONCEPTUAL SELLING – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
3. THE NEW SUCCESSFUL LARGE ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT – Robert B Miller and Stephen E Heiman with Tad Tuleja
4. THE NEGOTIATION FIELDBOOK – Grande Lum
5. THE 5 PATHS TO PERSUASION – THE ART OF SELLING YOUR MESSAGE – Robert B Miller and Gary A Williams with Alden M Hayashi
6. SELLING MACHINE – HOW TO FOCUS EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR COMPANY ON THE VITAL BUSINESS OF SELLING – Diane Sanchez and Stephen E Heiman and Tad Tuleja
7. SUCCESSFUL GLOBAL ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT – KEY STRATEGIES AND TOOLS FOR MANAGING GLOBAL CUSTOMERS – Kevin Wilson and Nick Speare with Samuel J Reese
8. THE SEVEN KEYS TO MANAGING STRATEGIC ACCOUNTS – Sallie Sherman, Joseph Sperry and Samuel Reese

All of the above are great books by the way and worth investing to gain a deep understand and expertise on higher level sales management in the enterprise space.

I would recommend all of them, but in case of time paucity, at least try the first two books – they are incidentally classics in their own right.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
27th January 2013
Mumbai

Synchronized Notes


I found a cute little software which can keep my notes and thoughts synchronized across my laptop (Windows XP), mobile phone (Android) and tablet device (iOS). There are several options to choose from, but after some investigation I settled on using Evernote.

My usual practice earlier has been to jot down random thoughts or points in a piece of paper, sometimes on a 3M note, and then keep collating these whenever I get time, so that I would have a digital copy in a Word file, or insert a specific item in my calendar when an action becomes due, etc., I am sure there were better ways, but people tend to go with whatever practice worked for them in the easiest manner in the past, so it was OK for me.

However, with the proliferation of devices and the availability of the same varying according to occasion, it has become absolutely imperative to create and synchronize notes for action across devices. We don’t wish to miss out on important activities, whether these be in the business or personal spheres. Oftentimes, we do not miss out on business actions, as these are well documented and captured in emails and calendars. We get reminders electronically as well as physically from other colleagues. But the same may not apply to personal space.

I found that the Evernote application works very well and across platforms beautifully. The other day, I had to attend the Parent-Teacher Meeting at my son’s school, and both my wife and myself forgot to take the usual notepad or even a pen. The other parents were all using such traditional means to capture what the teacher was saying, and we were looking at each other. Then I quickly opened the Evernote application on my Android phone and started keying in the main points being stated by the teacher into the application by creating a specific note on that particular meeting. And, once the meeting was finished, I pressed the “sync” button, and voila, my laptop and iPAD at home got the updated version of my electronic notebook.

Evernote has other useful features such as webclipping, but I am not going to expand on its specific features here in this post. I wanted to share a good tool which is very useful when it comes to personal data capture and synchronized management of the data, making it available where and when needed, and avoiding data frustrations.

These days, I capture all the ideas and actions in Evernote almost immediately. It seems a perfect tool for action-oriented personal data management.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
30th June 2012
Mumbai

Dead Horse Theory


Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

“When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount and get a different horse.”

However, in government, education and corporate life, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that the dead horse can be included.

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as ‘living impaired’.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and / or training to increase dead horse’s performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course,

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position!

Alarmingly True, right ?

Courtesy: From a person personally known to me

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
29th April 2012
Mumbai

Formula 1 Grand Prix


India recently concluded the Formula 1 Grand Prix successfully at Noida near Delhi. It was a grand success and went without a hitch. The racing circuit was endorsed by the key global racers as one of the best in the world.

While there are debates raging between the opposing camps – one which says it is a gross misuse of funds with no clear return on investment, and the other which says that India has truly arrived in the world’s premier sporting event – it is very evident from the success that private entrepreneurship is far better than government execution.

That statement is mostly true around the world. One reason which comes up clearly on the surface is that any government is not really geared towards running a business, or a sporting event for that matter. Governments around the world have mostly withdrawn from owning direct responsibility of running a business enterprise, though many might still have a controlling interest in several large enterprises. How can we expect to run a manufacturing industry, or a business using the services of government bureaucrats. I believe even public sector enterprises in India (majority-owned by Government of India through one of its ministries) should have at least a 50% representation by independent directors on their boards of directors. In some cases, it is not even 20%. We can all see the mess in Air India (now called “Indian”) – the flagship airlines of India owned by the government. Examples abound. Even in the sports arena, the world saw the Common Wealth Games (CWG) scandals in India last year: though the event itself happened without much of a problem, the corruption scandals tarnished the image of the Indian Government and the CWG institution.

In the case of Formula 1, the entire execution was by a private sector company, which obtained the license to run the Grand Prix from the Formula 1 Organizers, and the much-needed land from the Uttar Pradesh State Government (Noida is part of the state). There are several arguments in the Indian media that the company will not be able to recover the investment even after many years, and given the poor mindset on maintenance, the circuit would be wasted away in due course of time. What is the point in building such an expensive circuit, when it is going to be used just for a few days in a year ? Etc., etc.,

But the key point, Indians need to be proud, and there are very few things today that they can be proud of. When such a small city state as Singapore can host the Night Grand Prix so successfully for the past few years in the middle of its dense city, can India, a country of such vast proportions stand up and execute an ambitious project without corruption and with such perfection ? Yes, it can do so, if the executors are left to use their business sense and capabilities without unnecessary bureaucratic intervention.

Well, we can also argue till the cows come home, whether it was worthwhile to spend so much on an “elite” sport which very few people in the country understand or want to be involved in. Good question. Yes, most of even middle class must have come to know about the fact that a Grand Prix Formula 1 race is being held in India, only a few days before the event actually took place. One can also say that only the rich and famous, and the Bollywood celebrities were involved, and they were the only faces focused upon in the extensive media coverage last weekend. Yes, agreed on all the above counts. But all these observations do not detract from the excellent execution of a world-class project by private enterprise in India, and the Government of India would do well to learn from this experience and institute more public-private partnership events and enterprises to enhance the competitiveness of India on the global scene.

That would be a show-stopper, sorry, ground-breaking development in the long socialistic history of Independent India. It is not socialism, it is not capitalism, but it is “economic” partnership for ensuring the future of India.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
6th November 2011
Mumbai